How to Play Black Magic

Two Methods:Playing Black MagicVariations on Black Magic

The object of this game is for an audience to figure out how two people are communicating "telepathically." The name is both a joke about fake "black magic" psychic powers, and a hint for the audience to help them guess how the game works. Even once the audience has guessed correctly, there are plenty of ways for two players to trade secret information, keeping this game fun and different each time.

Method 1
Playing Black Magic

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    Ask an assistant to follow you to another room. You'll need to teach an assistant the secret to your black magic. Pick someone and take him to a separate room, or contact him before you get together with your friends. The rest of the group will be the audience, and stays behind.
    • If you want to be dramatic, tell the group that you need a quiet room for "forming a psychic connection."
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    Tell the assistant how the game works. In private, tell your assistant the secret to the game. Tell him that you will be pointing to different objects in the room, and asking whether each one is the object you're thinking of. He should keep answering "No" but pay attention to the color of the object you are pointing to. When you point to a black object, he will answer "No" again, but the next object you point to will be the right answer.[1] He should answer "Yes" to that one.
    • If you don't understand this step, read the rest of the instructions to see how the game is played in more detail.
    • There are many variations to this game, that use a different secret signal. Some are described below in another section.
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    Return to the room alone. Leave your assistant behind. Make sure there is no way the assistant can hear you, or the audience may suspect, incorrectly, that the "psychic" assistant is just eavesdropping.
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    Ask an audience member to pick any object in the room. Ask a volunteer to select any one object in the room. Ask her to tell you what the object is, explaining that you will be sending a psychic message to your assistant so he will know which object she chose.
    • If the audience thinks the assistant is listening in, have the volunteer point to the object instead. Ask her to walk over to the object and point to it from close by, to make sure you have the right one.
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    Call the assistant back into the room. Check that everyone in the audience knows what the object is, and tell them to keep it a secret from your assistant. Call the assistant back into the room. If he can't hear you, send out a group of several people to bring him back.
    • If you only send one person, the rest of the group might think he is telling the assistant the object, making the trick less mysterious.
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    Point to a few objects in the room, asking "Am I thinking of ___?" Point in turn to a window, a chair, a person's clothing — just about anything in the room that wasn't chosen – and ask this question. Fill in the blank with the name of the object. As long as you remember to avoid black objects, your assistant should answer "No."
    • Try pointing in different ways, using two fingers for one object, then vaguely waving at the next. People will suspect that you and your partner have set up a specific code with your gestures, which will lead them down the wrong trail and make it harder for them to guess the real method.
    • Optionally, you can make a show of "transmitting the psychic message" before pointing, holding your fingers to the sides of your head and staring at the assistant.
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    Point to a black object. Point to a black object, picking something that the volunteer did not choose. Ask "Am I thinking of ___?" naming the black object. Your assistant should once again answer "No."
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    Point to the correct object. As arranged in advance with your assistant, the object you point to right after the black object is the object the volunteer guessed. Your assistant will answer "Yes" to your question this time, and the audience will be amazed at how you managed to pass along the secret.
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    Let the audience try to guess how it's done. At this point, your audience will usually try to guess at how you did the trick. Smile and answer "no" when someone guesses wrong, or repeat the trick in a different way to show that they're wrong. For example, if someone guesses that you always point at the right object on the fifth question, repeat the trick with a different object and point to it on the third try, or the eighth.
    • To keep your audience guessing longest, use the variations in the section below. If you set it up in advance, you can even come up with an elaborate plan with your assistant. For instance, you can use the "black" method the first time, the number method the second time, and the black method again the third time.

Method 2
Variations on Black Magic

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    Pick a number with your assistant. Instead of using the "black object" method, tell your assistant that the seventh object you point to will always be the right answer. Of course, you can do this for any number, but choosing something higher than five to make it less obvious to your audience.
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    Come up with a coded gesture, and let someone else ask the questions. To really impress your audience, let a volunteer point at objects instead. Arrange a signal in advance with your assistant to let him know when the right object was selected. For instance, tap your foot lightly, blink rapidly, or scratch your arm when the volunteer points at the right object.
    • Suspicious audience members might look at you during the game, so this is a difficult method to pull off. Stand behind the audience members if possible, and make other small motions that aren't part of the code to mislead your audience.
    • An assistant who can distract the audience's attention is even better for pulling off this version of the game. Have him crack jokes, stretch, or pretend to think hard about each question, all while looking for your signal out of the corner of his eye.[2]
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    Name words instead of pointing to objects. Come up with a "rule" for which words are "good," but don't let anyone else know the rule. The rule can be "words that end with T are good," "words with two vowels in a row are good," "words with a SH sound are good" – anything you can think of. All other words are "bad." Have your audience say words aloud, then tell them whether each word is good or bad. Your audience members should try to guess just by naming words; ask them not to guess at the rule aloud, so that other people who haven't figured it out yet can keep guessing.
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    Try to guess without any code at all! Even if you don't believe in actual "psychic" abilities, you might be able to guess when someone is lying or telling the truth through their tone of voice or body language. Pick a close family member or friend, since you are more familiar with talking to him, and watch him closely. Have him say "I'm thinking of __." while looking at you, and try to figure out when he is lying based on his facial expressions, movements, and tone of voice.
    • Most psychologists and other researchers do not believe in the existence of "Extra-Sensory Perception" or other mysterious abilities that transmit thoughts, but there are plenty of studies on that topic if you're interested in learning more.[3]


  • If the volunteer chooses a black object, just find a different black object in the room and point to that first.
  • If you want to help your audience guess, make it easier on them next round by saying the color of each object as you point to it.
  • You can wear black shoes or clothes so you're sure there's something to point to, but it's usually not hard to find several black objects in a given room.


  • While the games described above are probably the most common versions of "Black Magic," many schools, camps, and groups of friends have invented their own versions, or even come up with completely different games called "Black Magic."

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Categories: Party Games